The Jewish Watchman and the Blue Whale 1
THE BELLY OF THE blue whale was lined with deep corrugations, like a field that had just been plowed. It hung from the ceiling of the Mammal Gallery in the American Natural History Museum in New York, which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited on July 9, 1912.
It was seventy-six feet long and weighed four tons. It wasn’t a real blue whale but a model of one, the largest in the country. It had taken eight months to build in 1907; its skin was papier-mâché.
The sight of the whale made ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laugh. “He could hold seventy Jonahs!” he declared.
The walk to the museum from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s house, at 309 West 78th Street, had taken about twenty-five minutes. But the heat that day was oppressive, and he sat down on a stone ledge to rest before traversing the last half block to the museum’s main door. Juliet Thompson, who accompanied him, looked for a closer entrance. She tried the employee entrance, but it was locked. Then a shrill whistle stopped her in her tracks.
She turned around to face an old, bent little man with a kind face. He was the watchman of the museum grounds, and he was Jewish. She pointed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “I must find a nearer door than the main one. See Who is sitting on that ledge! I must find it for Him.” The watchman turned and looked at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
“Is he a Jew?” he asked.
“A descendant of Abraham.”
“Ask Him to come to me,” the watchman said.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Juliet Thompson, and the Persian attendants followed the watchman, who showed them a shortcut across the grass. After seeing the blue whale and viewing a few more exhibits, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked outside and sat on the grass under the shade of a birch tree.
The watchman stole up beside Juliet. “Who is He?” he asked. “He looks like such a great man.”
“He is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of Persia,” she replied, “and He has been a great Sufferer because of His work for the real Brotherhood of Man, the uniting of all the races and nations.”
New York City 2
He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] had asked Lua Getsinger to go to California to proclaim the Covenant; but she, eager to be with Him, delayed going and finally walked in poison ivy during the Unity Feast to prevent her departure. Abdu’l-Bahá sent her some fruit, and she was quickly cured. Again He directed her to go, and she finally did.
There are two natures in man 3
After His prayers, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called to Him, one by one, the friends, old and new, who had assembled at His house. Each had a particular request or question. They came into His presence and each had a portion of this bounty. Mr Hoar’s family was invited to dine at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s home. As it was very warm and because of His heavy schedule, the Master did not get any rest until the afternoon when He went for a walk in a park adjacent to His house. He walks in the park, situated on the bank of the river, every day. Mr Moxey described ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s walks in that park in a beautiful poem.
Several friends came to see the Master in the afternoon. The name of Mr Barakat’u’lláh of India was mentioned. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
This man culls the teachings of the blessed Cause and publishes them in the name of Islam in the illusive hope of building an imaginary castle and of deriving some profit by deceiving the Muslims. But in the long run he will see nothing but manifest loss.
At the public meeting this evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk was on the dual nature of man. He said: ‘There are two natures in man. The realization of human virtues and perfections depends on the ascendancy of the spiritual over the animal nature in him.’
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “The Jewish Watchman and the Blue Whale.” 239 Days in America, 9 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/09/abdul-baha-jewish-watchman-blue-whale/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 109. [return]
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=5#section106 [return]